T h e Denial of Saint Peter is one of the most emotionally charged moments in the Passion story, depicted in all four Gospels of the Bible. Following Christ’s arrest, Peter, when questioned, denies knowing his friend and teacher three times before the rooster crows – just as Jesus himself had predicted at the Last Supper. “And Peter went out,” the Gospel of Luke says, “and wept bitterly.” It is this pivotal moment that Renaissance composer Orlando di Lasso examines obsessively in his polyphonic masterpiece Lagrime di San Pietro, or The Tears of Saint Peter, which the Los Angeles Master Chorale brings to the Melbourne International Arts Festival, staged by renowned American theatre and opera director Peter Sellars.

Lagrime Lagrime di san Pietro . Photo: supplied

While Di Lasso, along with Palestrina, is regarded as one of the great masters of Renaissance polyphony, his Lagrimedoesn’t get performed all that often. “Di Lasso, I think, sometimes gets overshadowed a bit by some of his contemporaries,” says Jenny Wong, who will conduct the Los Angeles Master Chorale in Melbourne. “People like Palestrina and later Monteverdi, for instance.”

Sellars puts it...